Water Trails

Winding its way through New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire and Maine, the new 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail offers both the casual and expert paddler a unique window into the very heart and soul of this historic region.

The new water trail, a loose connection of 22 rivers/streams and 56 lakes/ponds, follows ancient Native American travel routes through 45 towns and three nature refuges in a land, it seems, time forgot. A land dotted with symbols of where we as a people have come from and indications, some good, some bad, of where we might be going. A land that inspired the likes of Henry David Thoreau. A land of conflicting commercial, recreational and preservation interests.

But, of course, land is not really what this new water Trail is all about. And, if history is any guide, the opening of the Canoe Trail harkens back to a time when these rivers and lakes, ponds and streams were the only way to penetrate this vast, forested region. In fact, the opening of the Trail brings the region full circle — moving the public away from viewing these rivers and lakes as individual bodies of water available only for commerce and local recreation and, instead, re-focusing its attention and showing that these bodies of water are an interconnected system, useful for navigation, transportation and recreation. As such, they must be preserved.

Organizing The Dream

The new Canoe Trail (officially dedicated June 2006) was the brainchild of three men — Mike Krepner, Ron Canter and Randy Mardres — who, in the early ‘90s, under the auspices of the non-profit organization Native Trails, Inc., undertook the task of identifying, planning and surveying a contiguous canoe trail from New York to Maine. They completed the route research by the mid-’90s, at which point Kay Henry and Rob Center, former principals at Mad River Canoe, took on the project, incorporating the new, non-profit Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Inc. (NFCT), to translate the route into an accessible water trail.

Like all big ideas, this one required the support and effort of hundreds of volunteers who believed in the founder’s mission and worked tirelessly to make it a reality.

But, unlike all big ideas, Native Trails’ organizers hit upon a unique, and, ultimately, very effective way to recruit and support volunteers interested in moving the gargantuan project forward.

According to Kate Williams, Executive Director, Northern Forest Canoe Trail (Waitsfield, Vermont), NFCT facilitated local engagement by breaking the trail into 13 manageable and distinct sections and then working to engage the local communities in each section to participate in the process. The goal, successfully achieved, was to find a local host organization for each section of the Trail and, through them, rally local communities, businesses and volunteers to help with surveying, securing landowner permissions, marking, mapping and so on.

As Williams says, “It’s been an amazing grass roots effort. I give a lot of credit to our founders who laid the groundwork of local connections that has enabled us to develop an active network of 275 local volunteers.”

Now, with the all the work involved in trail creation completed, these same volunteers, under the guidance of Williams and her staff at the new non-profit’s headquarters, have turned their attention to trail maintenance and stewardship — working to care for their local waterways.

As Williams notes, the initial and long-term success of the Trail is dependent upon these local hosts remaining passionate and continuing to advocate for their portion of the Trail.

Of course, even with an army of volunteers, technical know-how and a well-organized approach, nothing happens without funding.

To that end, the Trail received some critical start-up funding through National Park Service-administered federal grants. Williams and her staff have also broadened their funding base to include state-level and foundation grants, corporate contributions, individual contributions, memberships (sold via the web and mail) and trail map sales.

No Comparisons

The Canoe Trail is often compared to the famous Appalachian Trail, and, while Williams understands this, she cautions users and volunteers to understand the several, significant differences between the two trails.

Page 1 of 3 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Trails to Nowhere
  2. Five Trails Get Designation
  3. Cookies Versus Popcorn
  4. Moving Water Instructor Course
  5. Safe Wet Playgrounds And Water Parks
  • Columns & Features
  • Departments
  • Writers